1. Your first move in a selling crisis

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      What is your best first (positive) move in a selling crisis? It’s easy to become overwhelmed. Many possible remedies. Limited time, resources, attention. Success in B2B selling relies on effective sales conversations. Why then does it make sense to require each rep to figure out and execute every critical sales conversation, on their own, without guidance? It is not a competency sales people are trained for. Truly effective value conversations are complex, require study, and considered design work. Even the best sales people need to know what critical conversations they can expect to encounter, and how to effectively execute them. You experience this now, when you don’t know if your problems are due to poor messages (what to say), poor delivery (how to say it), an unprepared rep, or inadequate support (content, experts, coaching, etc). What if there was a way to plan for and design critical sales conversations,...
  2. An experience using sales conversation frameworks

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      I was only four prospecting calls into my target list. I was calling to talk about sales performance issues. Then, I got this response from a sales manager I reached: “We don’t have any significant sales performance issues. We killed it last year.” Now, think about the ways your BDRs, direct, or partner reps would handled this situation. The many — different — ways. Fortunately, when I designed this conversation framework, I identified this as a potential scenario. I remember reflecting on and testing alternative approaches for different scenarios, over a couple of days. In this particular situation, I selected a question: “What possible constraints to hitting this year’s goals are you most concerned with?” Bingo! I got this: “Our reward for an outstanding year last year was significant increases in our quotas for this year. Last year most of my reps performed really well. But that doesn’t mean...
  3. Why B2B sales organizations must requisition sales content

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      B2B sales leaders know that effective, situation-specific, sales ready content is a strategic imperative. It is a key driver of B2B sales effectiveness. To provision sales and partner teams with the right selling information and content the sales organization must requisition sales content from their providers. Most people aren’t aware that effective sales content is significantly different from marketing content. This discovery helps explain the perennial frustration and challenge in arming sales and partner reps with what they really need (vs think they need). In short:   Marketing creates content for markets, segments and personas, to generate conversations (leads for sales people, PR and brand and other marketing purposes). Sales people require information and content to conduct conversations with specific account and buying teams. To be useful, sales content must align to and support the specific purposes of both sellers and buyers. So the question really is: How is it possible for non-sales-oriented, creative content people ...
  4. Where to start when you experience B2B sales performance issues

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      If you are a B2B sales leader experiencing sales performance issues, with sales teams that must execute a complex, solution, or value sales model — what do you plan to do? These are some of the actions you might be taking, or considering: A performance improvement “initiative” – reps often refer to this as the “program of the moment” – messaging work, prospecting training, account strategy planning, sales coaching, etc. Re-organize – teams, managers, adjust sales resources Change sales tactics — specialty teams, named accounts, vertical teams, product specialists, changes to individual rep’s sales bag Re-work territories – add or remove accounts Make product and/or pricing changes Manipulate incentives – (will spiffs work as well for a complex, value sale, as they do in a high-volume transactional sale?) We hear sales reps comment on it this way, “every six months it’s the same drill, people run around asking ‘why isn’t this working?‘” When this...
  5. Three focused actions improve your B2B sales effectiveness

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      This article introduces the discovery of a simple and practical approach to improve B2B sales effectiveness. It is especially important for B2B selling organizations with, or trying to adopt, a value selling model. And it’s an approach few organizations have thought about.   The Sales Effectiveness Problem and Core Cause For B2B selling organizations, there is only one primary sales problem … … the inability to predictably, reliably and profitably hit your revenue (growth) number.  There are numerous causes. The cause that seems most pervasive, and not well addressed, is … … the inability to deliver effective knowledge, conversations, and information, in context, at scale.  These factors are each important and inter-related. But the core cause is ineffective sales conversations. Specifically, the inability to engage new prospects effectively, to speak with insight about the prospect’s business issues, and to create value through how you sell as much as with...
  6. Sales Leaders – Align your value sale model to market realities

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        Are you involved with a commodity, or a complex/value sale? How would you know? Do your prospects understand the business problem that your offer addresses? Do they know what’s required to solve that problem? If the answer is “yes” to both, you are selling a commodity — or soon to be — offer. If the answer is yes to the first question, and no to the second, yours is a value added commodity offer. If the answer is no to both, you’re in a complex/value selling situation. Why does this matter? How does your marketing and sales strategy differ if you sell a complex/value offer? For many companies that require a complex/value sales model, this may be the crux of your new customer acquisition and revenue growth problem. You’re using a traditional marketing and sales strategy to conduct a value sale. What’s the difference? A key premise of the traditional marketing and selling model...
  7. Critical but misunderstood Challenger “B” sales conversations

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    Most sales reps who are trained in the CEB Challenger Sales model do a pretty good job with the “A” sales conversations. This is the first of what I call three distinct “sales” in the B2B complex or value sales process. In a complex or value sale, we first need to “close” the customer on the need to change, due to the real and urgent nature and cost of their current business state and problem.The Challenger Customer principle is to first address, or “break down,” the customer’s “mental model” of their business and problem. Their label for this the “A” stage of a sale. Challenger points out that most B2B sales reps proceed immediately to the “C” stage — how they solve the problem. CEB didn’t even bother putting “C” on their model. It comes automatically. We’re all so anxious to explain how we solve the business problem, and the value (proposition)...
  8. Sales Content for Sales Knowledge and Performance Support

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        This article is a deeper consideration of some of the questions and answers raised in my article, Marketing and Sales Content — Differences that Matter. A category of sales content I highlighted is Sales Knowledge and Performance Support. Outside of onboarding, periodic training, and informal sharing, this is an area that is largely left up to individuals. When this is the case, sales organizations lose an important sales performance lever — a continuous, collaborative learning and performance support program. Sales (enablement) leaders should foster a culture of learning, which is different than a culture of training. “Knowledge which is related but not identical to information, is exploding at the same rate as information. Doubling every two years.  Even though our knowledge is expanding exponentially, our questions are expanding exponentially fast.  And as mathematicians will tell you, the widening gap between two exponential curves is itself an exponential curve. That gap between questions and...
  9. Sell, don’t market your way to success with new paradigm offers

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      B2B companies bringing new offers to market risk long delays in product or solution uptake. Too often this leads to direct failure. Failure rates range from 40% to 80%. Clearly a risky and expensive bet. This risk isn’t limited to startups. Often we see large companies struggle to gain traction with new offers or new markets. One senior executive told me, “we are buried in our core brand.” This isn’t about direct replacement offers. But for what analyst firm SiriusDecisions terms “new paradigm and new concept” solutions it is a significant challenge.   New Paradigm Offers Require a Different Go-to-market Strategy New paradigm solutions provide a different way to solve business problems than existing solution methods. Customers may not understand key underlying causes of their problems that are resolved by new solutions. Sellers could be addressing problems customers aren’t even aware of. Or, they may not even see their problems...
  10. 6 actions for sales leaders to get the right sales content

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      Sales and sales channel performance suffers due to poor or missing situation-specific sales information. This is still a common B2B selling problem. Despite significant investments in sales and marketing technologies, most B2B organizations don’t provide enough of the right information and content to their sales and channel sales organizations — and audiences! Sales content isn’t designed and created “on purpose.” It isn’t created to meet well-defined use case requirements. Without clear requirement definitions, developers don’t know what to create, how or why. Sales organizations don’t know if they’re getting what they need. Marketing is largely responsible for content strategy and development. Yet few marketers can provide clear definitions or guidelines for what effective sales content really is. Most believe they currently create the content sales needs. They believe the problem is lack of awareness or access to that content. This is flawed thinking. Symptoms of this are the decades...
  11. A Conversation About B2B Selling Content

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      “What is the state of B2B selling content today?” That was the first question Barb Giamanco asked me on her sales podcast, Right Message, Right Support, Right Sales Content, on the Razor’s Edge. How would you answer that for your organization? How would you know? Is your selling content considered short life collateral, or mostly long-life assets? What criteria would you use to audit the quality and usefulness of your content? Do you have an inventory that would make an audit possible? These are some of the questions we discussed. Below is an outline of key points I addressed that you might want your organization to consider.   Key Considerations for Effective Selling Content If your sales team conducts a complex, solution or value sale, situation-specific selling information and content is essential for your success. If you are trying to shift your selling model from a traditional product-feature-benefit approach...
  12. Getting Sales Content Right

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      As B2B selling organizations attempt to transition from a product to solution or value sale, they must deal with the new realities of selling in a digital era characterized by self-educating teams of buyers. This new reality has made high-performing, situation-specific information and content a strategic imperative for B2B organizations in general, and direct and channel sales teams in particular. Two of the most under-served B2B functions when it comes to content are direct and channel sales organizations. There are many reasons for this. Too many executives aren’t aware of this imperative or the impact it has on new customer acquisition, revenue growth, selling costs or customer experience. As one senior sales executive at a large technology company said to me years ago, “what is content, it’s collateral, right?” Whew! Sadly, this mindset is still prevalent today. Marketing departments assume the content they create is suitable for sales. Often...
  13. Use Information Interview for Sales Prospecting Conversations

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    B2B sales organizations with a complex, “platform,” or value sales process face some of their biggest challenges in the initial prospecting stage. The process for a value sale is naturally longer than a simple product sale. Companies risk missing revenue growth targets when sellers are ineffective or inefficient at getting target accounts to engage. A couple of big deals can make a huge difference at the end of the year. If your sales role is major accounts, you have even more at stake. In addition to the basic causes — poor, undisciplined prospecting skills and techniques — I see a flawed general approach to prospecting for the value sale model. Sellers bring a product prospecting mindset, approach and conversation to this task. This is exacerbated by buyer tendencies to apply a product buying mindset to initial conversations. We’ve all heard “what are you selling” questions, since the early days of...
  14. The epidemic in B2B sales prospecting

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        Many B2B selling organizations hit a wall in their new customer acquisition and revenue growth rates. Sales pipeline quality, volume and conversion rates are both symptom and impact of this situation. This condition is especially evident in companies that are engaged in a complex or solution sale. Sometimes this is called a system or platform sale. The analyst firm SiriusDecisions calls it a “new paradigm” or “new concept” sale.  I and others use “value sale”. Even companies with a traditional, product selling model are not immune. Companies that experience stalled revenue growth may attempt to shift from traditional product selling, to a more consultative and comprehensive solutions or platform approach. Too often they bring their traditional selling mindset, process and skillset with them. The B2B sales prospecting epidemic is the result of a critical underlying cause most people are unaware of and do not fully appreciate even when they become aware.   An Example Companies that have had a...
  15. The B2B Value Sale is Actually Three Distinct Sales

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      Companies trying to execute a B2B solution or value sale must overcome selling problems that start at the prospecting stage and persist to the end. Symptoms include too few quality additions to the sales pipeline, protracted and lengthening sales cycles, and low win rates. A significant cause is sellers haven’t realigned messages, sales conversations, and sales process to the way buyers buy. This situation becomes more pronounced when selling to prospects who aren’t in an active buying process. We call this a “Find vs. Create Opportunity” situation. (See Find vs. Create Sales Opportunities) When I speak with B2B sales professionals they readily acknowledge there are not enough active buyers to meet quotas. In most organizations sales people tell me 80% of sales prospects have to be “created” as opportunities. But even with active buyers there are opportunities for B2B sales professionals to up their game. After all, they are often...
  16. Sell into the “hidden opportunity market”

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    We used to say, “sell ahead of the RFP.” Then, for more than a decade we’ve been telling clients, “sell ahead of your competitive herd.” Now we’re telling them, “sell into the ‘hidden opportunity market’.” As a result of recent client work, I’ve re-examined CEB’s Challenger Customer for clues on how to improve B2B sales practices, especially for sales content. I’ve re-read Challenger Customer in detail at least 5 times. Each time I get a deeper appreciation for the insights their research provides. And how elusive these insights and their implications can be for sales professionals. (See Unpacking Challenger Customer Insights.) “Customers are typically 37 percent of the way through a purchase decision when group conflict peaks – and in some cases this stalls or, worse, kills the deal all together. On top of that, those customers don’t meaningfully engage suppliers’ sales reps until they are, on average, 57 percent of...
  17. Challenger Customer Implications for B2B Sales Professionals

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      Most sales executives I’ve asked about their view on CEB’s book Challenger Customer have completely missed the value for their sales program. “Oh yeah, I read Challenger Sale a couple of years ago, good book.” In our view, Challenger Customer is a must read for sales leaders who are trying to execute a “value selling” sales model, or to shift from their transactional, product selling model. Challenger Sale introduced concepts about what B2B sellers should do. But few recommendations were really actionable by most sales leaders and their teams. Challenger Customer provides the roadmap, AND the accelerant. The book presents the results of extensive research. They looked at what the best B2B sales people have actually been doing. They explain simply, and show graphically, the results achieved compared to average and poor sales performers. But sales behavior change and results will not be realized simply by having sales teams...
  18. The most underserved content requirements

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      I received a call from a colleague who started a new sales job with a software company. “We have no good content to serve as door openers, or to nurture target accounts who aren’t ready to meet. All we have is product collateral.” Sales content for key sales engagement points are the most underserved content requirements in most B2B organizations. Little or poor prospecting is both a symptom and casualty of this reality. There are many important reasons for this (please don’t shoot the messenger, not all may apply in your organization): Marketers don’t know what sales people need. Sales managers and reps actually don’t know what they need either, until the situation occurs and they can’t find it! Marketers don’t package and deploy content to sales that marketing may be using for lead gen and nurturing. Sales doesn’t know how to requisition content from non-sales resources who need...
  19. A glaring omission in B2B selling systems

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      Two top B2B sales problems are: Low output, measured as new customers acquired, revenue growth, margin, and product mix High selling costs measured as productivity, efficiency, revenue yield per rep, sales cycle time We’ll use one important cause of these top sales problems — low sales prospecting effectiveness — to focus our main point. Poor prospecting is an inability to create enough good opportunities, with the right prospects, quickly enough. It “shows up” as an inability to get enough first and second conversations with new prospects. This is a decades long, universal problem. It continues to get worse, despite communication and technology breakthroughs. Why is this? What’s missing? This is a complex problem. But does it have to be complicated? Complicated is often due to lack of clarity about key requirements. So this prompted us to developed a list of the primary requirements for B2B sales prospecting success. Primary...
  20. Why You Need a B2B Sales Information and Content Strategy

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      If you sell the way you did 10 years ago, you don’t need a sales content strategy. There’s little strategy required to tell people about your company, products, features — just don’t forget those benefit statements! But if you’ve truly adopted a customer-centered sales philosophy you know you have new requirements. The new realities of selling to self-educating, digital era buyers has made having the right information an essential tool for sales professionals. The right content addresses every key buyer decision point throughout the customer engagement process. The importance and complexity of this requirement demands a strategy.   Sales people need content to sell In B2B sales, especially a complex, considered or value sale, sales people still generate most of their sales “leads.” They develop virtually all sales opportunities. As it is for marketers, content is essential to capture prospect attention and generate interest. For sales people, tracking prospect content consumption indicates...
  21. Capture Sales “Situational Fluency” for Effective B2B Sales Coaching

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      In the B2B selling world there is near universal appreciation for the value of sales coaching. Research indicates significant impact on forecasted deal win rates, revenue growth and other selling metrics. Research from The Sales Management Association show sales people believe it’s the most important, least supported sales resource.     The constraints are equally clear. The big impediments are no surprise: lack of sales manager time, skills, and accountability.     We discovered a core cause of these constraints that makes the situation look even worse. It explains why, despite the universal acknowledgement of coaching importance, it isn’t being conducted regularly and effectively. This discovery made us appreciate the current approach to sales coaching will never be universally executed effectively and consistently. If it could, it would have. It’s simply too difficult. A new approach is needed. What Are We Coaching For? The top level objective of sales coaching is clear. We’re...
  22. B2B Sales Information and Content Strategy

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        When it comes to content and strategy, few people share a clear and common meaning of each word. Put them together, and what you have is downright perplexing. This is a sales content strategy guide for the perplexed. It is for people in marketing and sales who must collaborate to get these strategic assets right. (See Content is a Strategic Imperative for B2B Selling Organizations) The linked articles below are integral to a complete understanding of how to develop, document and execute an effective sales content strategy. First, a few definitions. Content For this article we are talking about sales content. More specifically, we’ll focus on B2B sales that are defined as complex, considered or value sales. “Content” includes sales messages, conversations, and stories which comprise what we refer to as the “contentS” of the media that package and deliver them. So content also includes conversations delivered by...
  23. The Missing Ingredient for Sales Coaching

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      There is a generally high desire for sales coaching in B2B selling. Most managers and reps know it’s important. Done well, coaching can make a significant difference to rep and manager performance and success. Financially, everyone has a lot at stake. But sales coaching is seldom done. Consistently. Or well. Why is that? What’s missing? To be successful sales people need: Knowledge and information (including sales strategy and process), Skills and techniques, Conversations and messages These inputs enable sale people to know What to do, What to say, How to say it. We are among many who believe how you sell is a primary way to create value for prospective buyers, and to differentiate from competitors. Training programs provide the initial vehicles to “prepare sales for the fray” as one of my colleagues says. Training methods include information transfer, modeling best practices, and sales practice with feedback. Training prepares sales...
  24. B2B Sales Conversations — By Design

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    To paraphrase David Packard, sales conversations are too important to leave to sales people. B2B sales conversations for key touch points should be designed. This optimizes conversation effectiveness and simplifies selling. It provides a common baseline that makes feedback and continuous improvement possible. How have you designed the sales conversations for your key touch points? How well do each of your sales people handle conversations at key touch points, or with different stakeholders? How consistent is the delivery of your messages across your sales teams? How does stress affect these results? I’m talking about the conversations where, when they are performed well, you’re in the game. You’re gaining respect and trust that makes it possible for you to educate buyers and influence a buying vision and decision criteria. Poorly performed conversations mean you might not even get into consideration, or might just be pricing fodder. According to SiriusDecisions, 71% of sales...
  25. Adopt a “Buying” Sales Mindset

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    In my view selling is 85% mindset and 15% technique. Unfortunately, most sales professionals focus primarily on learning sales techniques. Adopting a better sales mindset might be what’s required. I call it a “buying” mindset. I’m looking to acquire customers for my business. What is Selling? This is a question I regularly ask B2B sales professionals, especially those with new customer acquisition responsibility (hunter), more than an account maintenance (farmer) role. I get all kinds of answers. But generally they sound like: “Persuading someone to buy my product or service.”   “Finding people who need my product and convincing them we have the best.” “Selling is the way that you help customers to buy products and services from your business.” As you are undoubtedly thinking, there’s nothing really wrong with these answers, and the thinking they reflect. But they imply two things: Selling is something you have to do (can...
  26. New Sales Competency – Use Content to Sell

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      The digital era has ushered in many behavior changes, especially for B2B buyers. Sales professionals have been slower to change their sales methods to adapt and align with new buying processes and the expectations of buyers. Those who are not actively and effectively using content to sell are missing an important opportunity to capture a selling advantage, lower selling time and costs, and accelerate successful sales outcomes. “Social selling” while new and popular, doesn’t yet represent a significant breakthrough in the way B2B sales people sell. As currently applied, social selling is primarily a different (and hopefully more efficient way) to research buyers, to network, and to conduct some initial touches. In reality, and almost by definition, most sales people have never really used content to sell. Two supporting reasons for this are the traditional lack of sales ready, customer relevant content, and poor ability to find content for specific...
  27. More Than Content Needs Overhaulin’

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    For all the time, attention and investment made in sales enablement tools, it’s a shame a fraction of that hasn’t been invested in solving the core problem: the content itself. One of our colleagues often quips: “it’s easier to buy software.” He means easier than figuring out the culture and process changes, aligning siloed functions, enrolling stakeholders, and resolving all the interdependent causes of problems. He also says, “every major purchase is essentially a change management initiative.” Despite the lip service and pockets of success (sustainable?), sales enablement hasn’t yet met expectations. But then …. CRM? I was reminded of this by Tom Pisello’s summary of the Qvidian users conference. Top Priority: Content Overhaulin’. While “purging, aligning and personalizing” content might be necessary work, what’s really required is a better process for content. How can it possibly be, that in the fifteen years I’ve been involved with B2B content, most...
  28. Need Better Content? Define Your Use Case Requirements

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    Perhaps you’re the sales leader, and your sales people lack the content they need to sell effectively in this age of online, self-educating, stealth buyers. Or, perhaps you’re responsible for lead generation and demand management, but you lack effective education-oriented nurturing content to support your desire to deploy multiple persona, stage and industry relevant nurturing campaigns. You might manage channel sales and your partners regularly complain they lack channel appropriate content to fuel their lead gen and selling activities. Or, you are accountable for any number of other content dependent, customer engaging groups across your organization. Your inventory and budgets are starved for the customer relevant content you require. You each know the performance of your group suffers due to poor, missing or impossible to find content for key situations.  Yet your organization is cranking out more content than ever before. What’s going on? More importantly, what can you do...
  29. Improve Sales Proficiency With Relevant Sales Conversations

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      Why relevant? What does relevant really mean? How would you know if you are having a relevant conversation with a buyer? How does this improve your proficiency and results? Relevant — adjective; 1. bearing upon or connected with the matter at hand, pertinent Pertinent — adjective; 1. pertaining or relating directly and significantly to the matter at hand. Being relevant is important due to the shift of the locus of control in buying/selling situations. Traditionally, buyers were dependent on vendors through their sales representatives for information. This “conversation” typically went: “Here’s what we have (product, solution), here’s what it does (features), here’s how it will help you solve your problem (benefits).” Today, buyers are conducting self-directed, online research, deep into their decision process. B2B buyers don’t need vendor/product information until later in this process. They don’t believe — often because they haven’t experienced — sales reps can provide any...
  30. Improve Sales Proficiency By Being Relevant to Buyers

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    Why relevant? What does relevant really mean? How would you know if you are being relevant with a buyer? How does this improve your proficiency and results? Relevant — adjective; 1. bearing upon or connected with the matter at hand, pertinent Pertinent — adjective; 1. pertaining or relating directly and significantly to the matter at hand. Being relevant is important due to the shift of the locus of control in buying/selling situations. Traditionally, buyers were dependent on vendors through their sales representatives for information. This “conversation” typically went: “Here’s what we have (product, solution), here’s what it does (features), here’s how it will help you solve your problem (benefits).” Today, buyers are conducting self-directed, online research, deep into their decision process. B2B buyers don’t need vendor/product information until later in this process. They don’t believe — often because they haven’t experienced — sales reps can provide any other useful information....
  31. An All Too Typical Sales Prospecting Phone Message

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    One of many webinars I attend was a lead nurturing webinar recently. I’m always looking for insights, especially about how companies are thinking about content to support their many use cases. I also like to experience selling from a buyers perspective. I get many sales prospecting calls, but usually for products or services I could care less about. I delete and forget. But this was a topic I’m really interested in. While I’m not a prospect for this company, I think I am an important influencer, and potential referral source for them. This is the follow up message that was left on my voicemail. After you listen to this 35 second recorded message (slightly edited to remove identifying marks) — and before you read on — take a moment to write your impressions of the message, and what you would do differently. (Play in separate webpage.) Now let’s compare. Message...
  32. Shift from Repository to Content, Communication and Collaboration Ecosystem

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      People responsible for sales and channel enablement, marketing and content operations, or supporting groups that use content, face many challenges. We have identified a solvable challenge that immediately improves productivity, efficiency, and, most of all, business outcomes. Almost every day I have conversations with people in organizations who complain how difficult it is to find, access, deliver, and reuse content that is critical to job or task performance. This is a basic and solvable challenge. Your Content Constituents When this ability is missing, business outcomes suffer. But people’s motivation to quickly and effectively respond to the requirements of each situation is also curtailed. Audiences today expect near instant response or support. This often means delivering relevant, useful content. Think about the customer-facing, content-using groups across your organization: in marketing and sales of course, but also customer service, training and HR (talent acquisition). Your external constituents in your sales channel also...
  33. For Sales Blogging and Social Selling – Think Like a Publisher

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      The practice of social selling has crossed the chasm and entered the tornado stage. (Huffington Post, see Mike Kunkle’s excellent webinar) To fuel this content dependent activity, many are urging sales people to blog, and to become thought leaders. (Lori Richardson, John Jantsch,  ITSMA) This is a logical extension from a belief that sales people must think more like marketers. In my view, “think like marketers” means sales people must approach selling from a buyer perspective. They must understand and align to the issues, questions and process buyers must address to make a buying decision. (See Sharon Drew Morgen – Buying Facilitation) Not all buyers are ready or interested to hear about your company and product — especially those features. But I also know that thinking like a marketer does not mean thinking like a journalist. It does not require sales people to “blog” – certainly not in the way most...
  34. IDG On Connecting the Dots Between Content and Sales

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    The opening lines, and most of the lines that followed, really grabbed my attention: “Marketers spent more than $40 billion on custom media in 2011. B2B marketers are allocating one-third of their budgets to content marketing, and more than half plan to increase content marketing spending in 2013. However, as many IT marketers are discovering, content marketing is a complex practice that requires insights not just into what type of content to develop and deliver, but when and how to deliver these assets to ensure maximum engagement.”   This IDG Enterprises report is the result of a survey of 1,025 IT decision makers to “to gain a better understanding of the role content consumption plays in the purchase process for major technology products and services.” I believe these insights apply to most content marketers today, and soon to all, even in lagging industries. My first observation is this is the...
  35. Change Selling Behavior — Really?

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      Another terrific Boston SMEI breakfast discussion this morning. Lisa Dennis lead a discussion about changing selling behaviors using ideas from Dan Pink’s latest book, To Sell Is Human. Here are my takeaway observations and related thoughts. Core conclusion: rather than try to change behaviors, select, enable and incent desired behaviors. The topic of selling and sales behaviors is so broad, it has to be focused for a coherent discussion. Yet so much of what I read and hear never starts that way. Any sales conversation must begin with the nature of the selling process, especially from the buyers perspective — how they see their problems, available solutions, and buying challenges. My colleague Rob Scanlon developed a simple “Three Level Selling Model” that I’ve found useful. This is based upon the customer’s understanding of their problem, vendor products and solutions available to solve their problem, and their ability to make...
  36. Got “content” challenges? Apply the problem-cause model

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      Serious practitioners of content marketing inevitably face significant content challenges. But sales professionals do as well — especially to conduct effective change conversations with customers. Surveys, as well as client discussions about top content challenges, reveal the operational nature of the underlying causes of many of content related problems. Operational Issues However, I seldom see content strategy guidelines address operational issues. This is a major shortcoming of current thinking. Content strategy and planning for content marketing is a different and complex task for most newcomers. But if you look at the challenges early practitioners have faced, you will want to figure this out quickly. One of the most useful models we use we call the “problem-cause model”. Like many powerful ideas, this idea is simple. But work with it and you will experience important insights that will help with your content strategy and execution. Problem-Cause Model Explained In this...
  37. Selling to On-Demand Buyers

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    Most of us are well aware the world of B2B buying has gone through fundamental shifts in the last five to ten years. Why hasn’t the way we sell fundamentally changed as well? We all feel the perception from buyers that, to them, all vendors and their products look pretty much the same (undifferentiated value). We know too well the difficulty of identifying and engaging new prospects in sales conversations (generating leads). Our CRM monitored sales process reveals protracted buying timeframes (longer sales cycles and higher costs). I am amazed that for many senior executives I meet, a deeper appreciation of the implications of this transformation hasn’t occurred and isn’t translating into different strategies . If you are a CEO, CFO or VP of Sales with over twenty years of experience, you come from an era of thinking about B2B marketing as famously described by John Wanamaker: “Half the money...
  38. 35 Days to Great First Sales Meetings

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      35 Days to First Conversation — do the math For prospects who actively engage your content, assuming a two day lag in viewing, here is a possible sequence to your first call appointment (elapse time not work days) (“your mileage may vary”): Day 1 – send initial invitation touch with vmail call Day 3 – prospect views email content Day 5 – send Touch #2 automatically, no call Day 7 – prospect views content Day 14 – send Touch #3 mail, vmail call Day 16 – prospect views content Day 23 – send Touch #4 mail, vmail call Day 25 – prospect views content Days 25, 26, 27 – email & call to request introduction conversation Day 35 – have first introduction call For a detailed, comprehensive explanation of each step, download this document.  
  39. What “Job” Do You Want Content to Do?

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      Marketing professionals who are trying to understand the principle behind content marketing can take a lesson from Clayton Christensen of the Harvard Business School and his “jobs-to-be-done” marketing ideas. This core Christensen idea is presented in the HBS Working Knowledge article, Milkshake Marketing. The article describes a fascinating study his team conducted on behalf of a fast food chain that wanted to improve milkshake sales. The company initially applied a typical market research approach before it engaged “one of Christensen’s fellow researchers, who approached the situation by trying to deduce the ‘job’ that customers were ‘hiring’ a milkshake to do.”   Parallels Between Product Design and Content Strategy Consider this comparison between product design and content strategy. Both product design and content share similar problems. Product design challenges are revealed in the low success rate of new product introductions. Marketing content issues are revealed in the low usefulness to marketing campaigns, sales...
  40. Lead Nurturing and the Inside Sales / Telesales Role

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    We are working with several clients to help them improve their lead nurturing program to deliver a higher volume and quality of sales ready leads to the outside sales team. We have found a tendency on the part of Inside Sales to conduct their work from what I would term a traditional mindset. In many cases they are actively prospecting for new leads from an unqualified list. They may be qualifying, using a BANT process, opportunities that have been created through marketing programs — something one of my partners refers to as “waterboarding to BANT.” Or, they are actively trying to set appointments for sales reps. Telemarketing Study Results This assessment was verified in a recent article about a study of the top objectives and budget areas for telemarketing organizations. “The most popular objective for telemarketing, according to the research, is ‘generating new leads’, selected by 76 per cent of...
  41. Additional Thoughts on 10 Rainmaker Selling Principles

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    As we all plan for a new year and for changes that will make a difference, a good place to start is with core selling principles and practices. Mike Schultz gives us a useful checklist in his recent blog 10 Rainmaker Principles and Keys to Sales Motivation, which I highly recommend. Given my commitment to focusing on “being the best“ I found this list especially helpful. Like all good points this post stimulated additional thoughts that I’d like to share. Principle #1 — Play to win-win. One of the challenges many of us have given our years of experience is to view principles like this through a mindset of “yes, this is a good one, I understand.” I will be challenging my organization to re-think and re-apply this principle in ways that break through our “thinking as usual.” We will re-define what it means to deliver in the best interests of clients and prospects — specifically and in...
  42. Another Case for Marketing and Sales Collaboration

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    We have to be careful not to take words too literally. Consider the idea that marketing delivers sales ready leads to sales. By doing this, marketing has moved the buyer X% (30% -70%?) of the way through the sales process, right? Well, maybe, but maybe not. Let’s look at what has to happen with that “lead” on the sales side. (Reminder, we’re talking complex not transaction oriented sales here.) In most B2B sales processes 4-15 stakeholders are engaged. (A top technology company selling a multimillion dollar solution has 30-50 people on their People Map). When we say marketing has delivered a sales ready lead, do we mean the 4-15 stakeholders to a specific opportunity, or a single individual? Obviously, waiting for marketing to get an entire buying team to sales ready status introduces serious risk factors of being late to apply the critical sales professional resource. After all, people progress individually...
  43. Twitter — What do you read at breakfast?

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      I’m often asked, “how do you use Twitter for your selling activities?” Twitter is a primary resource for me to listen, learn and conduct research. I find great ideas, articles and people through Twitter. I curate important and long-life content as an essential, almost daily practice. My rule is, if it’s a good article and worth sharing, it’s worth sharing many times over time. I curate to Microsoft OneNote to support this practice. Listening “It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure.”— Clay Shirky Using Twitter to listen to topic specific conversations is a skill we really need to develop. I don’t have time to listen to everything. By selecting and cultivating people who share my interests, I leverage their research, insights, ideas and conversations. I pick up themes, topics and keywords that help me further my listening, but in an efficient way. I acquire articles, quotations, research and facts I...
  44. Focus On Your Sales Conversations

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    Scott Santucci of Forrester’s Technology Sales Enablement Group has an important blog post regarding your sales conversations. (The Key To Sales Enablement Success Is To Focus On The Conversation) “A B2B sale is really the synthesis of many discrete conversations, and value is best communicated when they are focused on a common goal: solving the client’s problem. What most organizations fail to address is how complex a task it is to corral many discrete conversations into a consistent value communications strategy. To make matters even more complex, most companies have solutions that can address multiple different problems, so this set of questions must be answered for each opportunity. We all know that good conversations are dynamic, reciprocal and most effective where there is trust between the people involved in the dialog. To accomplish this, the salesperson must communicate information that is: Relevant: to the specific circumstances and realities of a given company In...
  45. Second Voice Vignettes for Telesales and Prospecting

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    As a sales professional, telephone selling is a key element of my sales job, especially in the critical, initial stages of prospecting and engaging new customers. For many sales people this is a frustrating, time consuming, low probability of success activity. Here’s an approach that significantly improves your odds, provides value to your prospects, gives you important feedback and, for now, will clearly differentiate you from other sales people. I’ve been thinking about the binary nature of sales prospecting and cultivating initial customer relationships. Consider, with most sales calls: We either connect, or don’t Leave a voicemail, or not Send an email, or not The prospect answers, or doesn’t Is willing to talk, or not Is interested, or not Is willing to meet, or not Is the right person or not, etc. Of course, the odds of a favorable outcome for each option don’t favor us. But what if there...
  46. How long is your sales process?

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    One of the early questions I ask prospective customers with a complex, B2B sale is, “how long is your sales process?” The answer is almost always, “it depends, it can be three to eighteen months depending …” In the past few years we’ve all gained a stronger appreciation for the idea of the customer’s buying process.  Sharon Drew Morgan’s contribution with Buying Facilitation(R) helps us. Ardath Albee’s buyer journey gives us a clear understanding. Automated lead nurturing has forced us to think through the buyer’s journey and how to support it with relevant, compelling content. Sales professionals know the sales process applies to qualified and interested opportunities. Sales participates in the active consideration phase of the customer’s buying journey. Two primary factors determine the sellers sales process: How long it takes to assess an active buyer’s needs, engage all buyer stakeholders, influence buying criteria, configure a solution, deliver a successful proposal and complete...
  47. On Sales Enablement

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    As I listen to the sales enablement conversation, it sounds like sales enablement is a euphemism for training, skill development and knowledge sharing. The conversation is heavily influenced by system vendors. These systems improve access to content that delivers selling knowledge and customer collateral. Reminds me of the old expression, “when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” Clearly improving skill and knowledge are part of what drives sales productivity. But I’m hearing two critical elements that have been missing from the conversation starting to emerge. Leads Are Part of Sales Enablement As a sales professional, I think one of the most important elements that enable sales to be more productive is a steady supply of qualified opportunities. Good leads vs. access to content? Give me leads every day. It is now clear that an automated lead management program is a “must have” for B2B...
  48. Avitage POV on Marketing and Sales Communication

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    My company, Avitage, has recently updated our point-of-view. Over fifteen years the core vision has not changed: to enable front line business communicators to assemble and deliver buyer relevant and useful content, tailored to each audience — even an audience of one. We even learned how to do this with video! But the delivery methods have certainly evolved, expanding the need for, and value of, our approach. Enabling sales to meet revenue, growth and profitability targets is the responsibility of marketing and sales working in a collaborative effort. How you sell is a primary differentiator and opportunity to create value for customers. These efforts should also be aligned around the common process of the customer’s buying journey, and the objective of facilitating a faster buying process. A Communication Requirement Seeing these objectives through a communications lens is an important distinction. Communication is a function of: Messages — knowing what to...
  49. How I Blew a Sales Layup

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    A layup is the easiest shot in basketball, if you’re not able to dunk. But it’s not unusual for a player to miss a layup. Why is that? Most likely because they overlook fundamentals and fail to concentrate. We recently had a sale not close — neither lost nor won, just won’t close. The customer has a significant and recognized need, high interest in our service, and our sales person has known and worked with the company previously. There was significant and acknowledged potential value from the service. The deal was a “no brainer.” So what happened? We followed most, but not all elements of our sales process. As we performed our opportunity review post mortem I remembered something we had overlooked. We had neglected to perform an Opportunity Flight Check prior to submitting our proposal. Our colleague, Rob Scanlon (www.privatesalescoach.com) has developed a unique and insightful program that assesses sales opportunity risk and...
  50. (Inside) Sales Needs Visual Support for Key Conversations

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    In the B2B complex sale, more selling is occurring over the telephone than ever before. This ups the ante for effective visual support that makes it easier and faster to communicate important points. But visual support also helps customers convey those points to colleagues, usually without sales rep assistance. Whether part of a formal inside selling function, or as direct sales people working in the early stages of the customer engagement process, phone meetings and conference calls are the norm, not the exception. Phone-based sellers can dramatically impact their customers and their sales effectiveness by delivering visual support to voice conversations either just before the call through email, or with live web meeting technology. For a decade we’ve heard from companies like Webex and Citrix that web meetings can give sales people a better way to conduct sales meetings without travelling to meet with customers. Well, maybe, but I find myself...
  51. What does your company do?

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    “It’s Not about the Bike” — the title of Lance Armstrong’s excellent autobiography. Becoming a world class cyclist requires far more than the bike. Strategy, practice sessions, workouts, diet, and mental aspects impact performance far beyond the equipment. The implications of his statement occurs to me every day. For example, too often people think a software system will solve their business problem. Another is the way sales people answer the typical customer question: “what does your company do?” There are two perspectives that can direct the response: the vendor perspective and the customer perspective. Sales people often fixate on their products or services. They think customers are as interested in key features as are they. Customers are actually asking one of two questions. They may be asking the product or service question so they can attempt to self-diagnose. Have you ever heard a customer respond to a product oriented introduction,...
  52. Improve Your Connect Rates

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    I continue to hear from sales people who still try to use email as a prospecting tool. I contend email is no longer a communication tool — especially when unsolicited — it’s primarily a delivery vehicle. Those who use marketing automation to track email open rates know it’s probably on the low end of 1% to 5%. Even if it’s “opened,” unsolicited emails might not be read, let alone have the message internalized. And this is what I mean by communication. In the email solicitations I receive I continually see “selling” in email messages. The objective of a prospecting communication must be to gain attention and to get a referral, meeting or conversation. Period. To accomplish this, the message must be compelling and relevant with a focus on the customer’s problems or opportunities. I know most people read emails on Blackberry and other portable devices. Therefore I have to write differently with...
  53. Sales Enablement — Revisited

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    I was on vacation when Gerhard’s blog came out on July 29 “Is Sales Enablement just Lipstick on a Knowledge Management Pig?” I just saw it this past weekend and feel compelled to comment now. Having read the post numerous times I’m not sure what the primary point really is: to denigrate the label sales enablement (why?), to criticize the “hype” of systems vendors, or to question the integrity of the analysts? (“Do you trust what analysts are saying about this concept?”) And what’s with the non sequitur about the “delay economy” and Twitter and the “real-time economy”? I like the concept, but how does that fit with a rant about sales enablement? I think the blog comments were more useful than the blog points. The premise of the post perpetuates the problem of an over pre-occupation with technology. Let me explain. Gerhard’s comments exhibit a tool obsession. Isn’t that what “Sales...
  54. Sales Conversations — Set Up the Listening

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      I spent the day yesterday with my executive coaches from GAP International. This group works with executives and their organizations to create “breakthrough organizations”. A breakthrough is an extraordinary and important outcome for which the way of achieving it is not known. It is not predictable from a projection of the current state of the business. The GAP concept is, extraordinary results are produced by extraordinary actions. Extraordinary actions are produced by extraordinary thinking. Most people, most of the time, take ordinary and predictable actions based upon “business-as-usual” thinking. Therefore, to create breakthrough outcomes, and especially to create an organization that consistently produces extraordinary outcomes, requires a transformation in people’s thinking. The “access” to this thinking is people’s language. By listening carefully to the conversations people conduct, and specifically the language they use in conversations, we can identify people’s thinking. This will indicate the kinds of actions they will take,...
  55. Create Content Like a Publisher when Creating Webinars – Two Customer Examples

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    Over a year ago in this space we outlined “7 ways to take your webinars to the next level,” which was so well received it led to an interview for Blog Talk Radio and multiple guest blog posts. Over the past several years we have been applying this create like a publisher approach to webinars, and the impact for our customers has been significant. The two customer examples show how changing the way you execute webinars can have a substantial impact on the results you get from lead generation webinars as well as fuel content creation for multiple purposes including lead generation, lead nurturing, sales enablement and thought leadership. Anthelio: “A Physician Portal Approach to Patient Information Access” How Anthelio created content like a publisher: Anthelio’s audience is difficult to get to committ the 45 to 60 minutes during the work day for a live webinar, so an on-demand microsite with short video segments is a more effective...
  56. The Top 7 Signs That You’d Better Fix Your Marketing Automation Setup – and What To Do About It – Signs 4 to 7

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    Last week I published signs 1-3 of the “The Top 7 Signs That You’d Better Fix Your Marketing Automation Setup – and What To Do About It”. This week I continue with signs 4-7. Sign #4: You’re cloning landing pages to create others It’s tempting to clone an existing page to create another landing page.  I don’t recommend it. Why not? You’re going to forget to update information. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve seen Marketo web pages with the wrong Page Name (top left corner of the browser), because the page was copied and the person forgot to update the page meta-data. That easy to forget because the meta-data is a bit “buried” and not top of mind to update unless you as using a checklist. What to do about it: Rather create a set of typical web page layouts in Marketo, from which you will clone. You can put...
  57. The Top 7 Signs That You’d Better Fix Your Marketing Automation Setup – and What To Do About It

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    Thor Johnson, ex-CMO of Eloqua, told me that he saw oh-too-many customers operating their marketing automation system as a “high priced email system.” And eventually their executive team wakes up and says “What is going on here?” In being in and around many different Marketo implementations the past several years (Yep, I needed to setup a different email address for each login – no duplicate email addresses allowed!), I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. So I’m here to share the top signs that you’d better fix your marketing automation setup – and what to do about it. It’s based on Marketo although the lessons are applicable to many other tools including Eloqua, Pardot, Act-on, Manticore and others.  You will see some common themes including using a modular and single source asset approach with program scalability and ease-of-maintenance in mind. As the title implies, for each of the 7 areas,...
  58. Marketing Automation – 10 Points on What to Do First

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    I was recently asked – “We have 3 months until we turn on our marketing automation system (in this case, Marketo). What should we do before we set it up?” First off, don’t wait for anything to turn on marketing automation. You don’t want to wait one more day because the moment you turn it on, it’s going to provide you with visibility into who is engaging your web site and you’ll begin building an activity history that will later be associated to an individually named prospect (as soon as they click on one of your emails). OK, so now you have your marketing automation turned on, what’s next? To help you ensure that you fulfill on the promise of marketing automation and meet the expectations of your management team, the below list are must-have components of anautomated lead management and lead nurturing program powered by marketing automation. These are not optional.  If...
  59. “The How” – More effective execution around webinars and event marketing

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    I have been asked to instruct an upcoming Marketo University course on event management as part of Marketo’s Revenue Rockstar Roadshow in Boston. The course will cover how to leverage Marketo’s programs & “my tokens” functionality to best manage lead generation events, both offline and online/webinars. By using a set of database-driven templates to manage all event web pages, emails and rules, you (marketers) can spend less time on event setup and operations, and more time focused on event promotion  — and therefore, getting more out of your events.  And this return on event investments (success rates and new lead acquisition) is rolled up into a single, management report compiled in real-time. Moreover, this approach means you can more easily incorporate best practices into your event and webinar programs.  When it comes to marketing, most of us know what we should be doing, but effectively operationalizing it (and ensuring it sticks) is where most companies fall short...
  60. From No-Budget to Signed Deal Using Provocation-Based Selling – Webinar Executive Summary

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    As part of the Marketo Revenue Masters Webinar Series, Principal Consultant for TrellisOne Consulting, Kathleen Schaub and Senior Vice President of Sales for Marketo, Bill Binch, co-presented a webinar entitled “From No Budget to Signed Deal.” The purpose of the webinar was to explain the concept behind provocation based selling and how it can reach high level executives. The webinar covered 3 key questions: 1)What does is mean when a lead says they “have no budget” for you? 2)What provokes an executive to spend their budget on your product or service? 3) How do I get the attention of executives looking to spend their budget on my product or service? This is an executive summary of the presentation. What does “No Budget” Really Mean? There is no such thing as having no budget. Everyone has a budget. When a prospect says they have “no budget,” what they usually mean is...
  61. Perspectives on Marketo’s Product Release – Event Management and Webinar Integration

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    I attended the Marketo product release webinar introducing Marketo’s new event management functionality as part of Marketo’s new pioneer program, for early adopters of the latest Marketo functionality. Marketo’s event management allows users to set up templated event sequences for events such as webinars, and greatly reduces the amount of steps required to re-use assets from event to event. In addition, the first iteration supports direct API access with WebEx, with other integrations planned for the future. The functionality is a good start and part of an overall development plan from Marketo to better automate event management tied to marketing automation. It’s too early for me to review the functionality based on a brief introductory webinar – but it did get me thinking about some of the key drivers as to why Marketo has invested their product development team’s valuable time into this new set of features. Two key reasons stand out:...
  62. 7 Ways to Generate More Sales Revenue with Marketing Automation – Webinar Executive Summary

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    As part of the Marketo Revenue Masters Series, Mac McIntosh, Founding Partner of AcquireB2B and Jep Castelein, Founder of LeadSloth co-presented “7 Ways to Generate More Sales Revenue with Marketing Automation.” This is an executive summary of the 7 ways. Nurture your leads to get 3 out of 4 sales opportunities that come from prospects with longer-term needs Marketing automation can help drive sales revenue by nurturing leads so that sales opportunities come from customers with the right level of needs. Research conducted by Founding Partner of AcquireB2B Mac MacIntosh, has shown that approximately ¾ of sales revenue comes from long term opportunities over six months. The purpose of these lead nurturing campaigns is to move buyers from awareness, to inquiry, to consideration and finally to purchase by appealing to different audiences in different stages of the buying process. Those customers in the beginning stages of the buying process require...

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